Wintersteiger, the big fish in the small pond of the ski maintenance and storing business, managed to increase its sales to another record result in 2008. Overall turnover improved from €84.5 million in the previous year to €91.5 million. Sales grew faster abroad than in the Austrian domestic market; exports grew by 13 percent and increased the share of foreign business by 4 percentage points to 89.7 percent. The operating profit margin before interest and taxes (Ebit) slightly slipped from 12.8 to 9.9 percent. The equity capital ratio was up by 2.3 percentage points and reached a stunning 52.6 percent.

The bulk of the growth was not provided by the sports division, which is the global market leader in ski service machines and rental storage systems. The big winner within the group was again the so-called Seedmech division, which manufactures specialty sowing and harvesting machines. It apparently sold splendidly in the U.S. as well as in Russia, Brazil and China. Seedmech’s sales jumped by an impressive 39 percent to €25.8 million. The Woodtech division, the smallest of the group’s three business units, posted a sales decline of nearly 5 percent to €21.3 million

The unfavorable snow conditions in the winters of 2006-07 and 2007-08 did have their impact on Wintersteiger’s sports division, but to a much lesser degree than on the ski brands. Wintersteiger took advantage of the continued growth of ski rental in various countries as well as of the last satisfactory winter with good snow conditions in both Europe and North America.

The sports division’s sales thus increased from €43.2 million to €44.3 million. About half of the sales were achieved by ski maintenance machines; the rest came from sales of storage systems for ski rental stations, related software and other services as well as replacement parts.

Even though the Austrian company’s figures were more than satisfactory, Wintersteiger is –like other successful companies in the industry – quite cautious as far as the outlook for the current year is concerned. Markus Piber, the group’s managing director for sales and marketing, pointed out that the global economic downturn might affect Wintersteiger this year, primarily in the wood industry, but in its other business segments as well.

The longer the crisis lasts, the more Wintersteiger might be affected due to the company’s dependence on the wealth of its customers, which may be hit by the global crisis. To be on the safe side, Wintersteiger has decided to postpone the originally planned extension of its production plant at its headquarters in Ried im Innkreis, Upper Austria. Still, the company has acquired a substantial plot of land in the neighborhood of the headquarters to get prepared for expansion once the crisis is over.